Friday, March 30, 2018

Easter 2018

Easter hasn’t always been the most important holiday for me. Even though I grew up in and around the church and “got saved” when I was only ten years old, Easter didn’t win, place or show when it came to holidays. Christmas was THE number one, by a wide margin. Second was the 4th of July. I loved fireworks. Still do. Fireworks, watermelon and homemade ice cream. Doesn’t get much better than that. And in my heavy drinking days, lots of cold beer. Then there was Thanksgiving. Football, great food, cocktails and falling asleep in the recliner. And New Year’s Day. More football and as I got older, more drinking. Just living the American dream.

Easter was always there, of course, bringing up the rear. Running neck and neck with Labor Day. As a little kid, the whole Easter Bunny/Candy Egg deal got my attention. As I grew older and started to understand what Easter was really all about, it became sort of depressing. Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed. Woo-hoo…now can we get back to living life? I didn’t say that. I probably didn’t even think that. But that’s how it turned out. Easter was always a time when this wayward backslider would say he was going to clean up his act and go back to church. But, then life would get in the way and nothing changed. Just another year older and farther away.

Most people don’t want to talk about “religion”. For years I would be the first one to change the subject. Religion never worked for me. I tried it and failed. But, for some reason I never could let go of the idea that there really is a God. And, more importantly, for some reason God never let go of me. I don’t know why I believe, other than it’s by the grace of God. If it were left up to me, I’d just be “spiritual” and hope that the “universe” was grading on the curve and everything would work itself out to my eternal benefit somehow.

But God had a different plan. And now, for me, Easter is the most important holiday. Because Christ is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed. That Easter falls on April 1 this year makes it only more special for me. If I am a fool for believing, so be it.

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” I Corinthians 15: 17-19

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Five Smooth Stones

Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:40

I always have extra batteries available in March. For the remote control. For March Madness. Especially for the first round of March Madness. I record some of the “more significant” games and then find myself channel flipping as the others are played. Last night I flipped the channel and saw that UMBC had a double-digit lead over top-ranked Virginia…in the second half.

It was early in the second half, so my money was still on Virginia to wake up and pull away. So I flipped the channel again to TCU-Syracuse. But that UMBC-Virginia score was showing at the top of the screen and UMBC was still hanging on to a sizeable lead. I had to flip back to that game.

My wife was sitting there surfing on her iPad, glancing at the television from time to time. Making conversation she looked up and asked, “Is that TCU in the white jerseys?”.

I slowly replied, sort of Jimmy Stewart-ish, “Uh No….no..uh..that’s Virginia…and they are losing to UMBC”.

“Who’s UMBC?”, her eyes turning back to her iPAd.

Sports nut that I am, I am supposed to know these things.

My wife began to speculate. Are they from Missouri? Michigan? British Columbia? British Columbia…seriously?

I clicked on the “info” button and discovered that UMBC was the University of Maryland- Baltimore County. I then answered her question as though this was common knowledge that every sports fan should know. She looked up just before I exited the information pop-up screen and called me out for cheating.

I have to admit it. I had no clue who UMBC was. I pay no attention to 16 seeded teams unless they are from one of the many places I have lived in my wandering life. I’ve never lived in Maryland. Apparently the University of Virginia Men’s basketball team was not paying attention either.

As I watched UMBC, The Retrievers, pull away and beat mighty Virginia 74-54; the story of David and Goliath immediately came to my mind. And I’m sure that story will be attached to UMBC by many writers, bloggers and tweeters. But, the complete story as reported in the Seventeenth Chapter of 1 Samuel notes that David chose “five smooth stones” for his confrontation with Goliath.

UMBC had five smooth stones plus some guys on the bench and a pretty good coach. Jarius Lyles was the smoothest of the stones and the one that really brought down Goliath with 28 points, 23 in the second half. (And, interestingly enough, Jarius gives us another Bible reference. Jesus brought his daughter back to life. This is all just too good, isn’t it?)

But some stories really are too good to not be true. I feel bad for UVA, but UMBC’s monumental upset, the first time a 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed, is a classic feel good story. With all of the NCAA cheating scandals, paying players under the table, shoe deals and other shenanigans; for this one night five smooth stones from an unexpected and mostly unknown place made college sports history and in a good way. The Retrievers brought us back to the best college sports has to offer. And it was glorious.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Free Trade

President Trump’s proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum is a bad idea. Tariffs have never been a great idea and usually bad things happen in the global economy when a super power starts playing games with tariffs. In today’s global economy, it’s an even worse idea.

If we want to fix our balance of trade, we need to take the long-term view. Investments in infrastructure and education will make us better and more competitive in the global economy. We talk about bringing jobs back to America. We don’t have enough qualified people to fill those jobs. We don’t have an unemployment problem. We have an “unemployable” people problem. So we need to educate, train AND motivate our workforce in order to get over that hump. (And that “motivate” part is a whole other subject.)

I predict that cooler heads will prevail and Trump will change his mind as he so often does. He’ll say that the threat has gotten concessions from our global competitors and his bluff worked. The art of the deal strikes again. Of course, it will be total nonsense and we’ll just move on to the next issue.

Trump has done some good things. The tax bill, his Supreme Court pick and reducing regulations on businesses are all winners. And he may even get something worked out with North Korea. There may be a method to Trump’s madness. But the problem is that when you’re the leader of the free world, you can’t afford to be wrong on the big stuff. That’s how wars get started.

“I love free trade, but we need great leadership to have real free trade. And we don't have good leadership. We have leadership that doesn't know what it's doing.” – Donald J. Trump.